Diving into the depths: Tampa Bay Rays

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Tampa Bay Rays
Rotation
1. James Shields
2. Matt Garza
3. Jeff Niemann
4. David Price
5. Wade Davis
6. Andy Sonnanstine
7. Jeremy Hellickson
8. Lance Cormier
9. Carlos Hernandez
10. Heath Phillips
11. Alex Torres
Davis impressed in his 2010 audition, going 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA in six starts last September, so he should enter camp as the clear favorite for the fifth spot over Sonnanstine.
Bullpen
1. Rafael Soriano
2. J.P. Howell
3. Grant Balfour
4. Dan Wheeler
5. Lance Cormier
6. Randy Choate
7. Andy Sonnanstine
8. Dale Thayer
9. Jeff Bennett
10. Jake McGee
11. Mike Ekstrom
12. Winston Abreu
13. R.J. Swindle
14. Paul Phillips
15. Eduardo Morlan
Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen and Chad Bradford all appear to be riding off into the sunset, but it’s not like any from the group made a real contribution last season anyway. Barring a Sonnanstine trade, the pitching staff would seem to be essentially set. It’s possible that either Choate or Sonnanstine could pitch his way off the team during spring training, but both should be penciled in for the moment.


Catcher
1. Kelly Shoppach
2. Dioner Navarro
3. Jose Lobaton
4. John Jaso
First base
1. Carlos Pena
2. Willy Aybar
3. Dan Johnson
4. Ryan Shealy
5. Chris Richard
Second base
1. Ben Zobrist
2. Willy Aybar
3. Sean Rodriguez
4. Reid Brignac
5. Elliot Johnson
Third base
1. Evan Longoria
2. Willy Aybar
3. Joe Dillon
4. Sean Rodriguez
Shortstop
1. Jason Bartlett
2. Reid Brignac
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Elliot Johnson
There’s been nothing to suggest that the Rays will pursue Felipe Lopez, so it looks like Zobrist will stay at second base. It makes him a bit more of an injury risk, but he’s pretty good defensively there, making him a whole lot more valuable than he’d be as a right fielder.
Left field
1. Carl Crawford
2. Sean Rodriguez
3. Gabe Kapler
4. Fernando Perez
5. Justin Ruggiano
6. Chris Richard
Center field
1. B.J. Upton
2. Fernando Perez
3. Desmond Jennings
4. Gabe Kapler
Right field
1. Matt Joyce
2. Gabe Kapler
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Justin Ruggiano
Designated hitter
1. Pat Burrell
2. Dan Johnson
3. Willy Aybar
The Rays might yet grab someone to compete with Joyce and Burrell for playing time. Jermaine Dye is one name that has come up. A reunion with Rocco Baldelli would also make some sense. Still, I think Joyce will be just fine as a right fielder against right-handers, especially since he’s a plus defender, and if he fails, then sticking Jennings in center and moving Upton to right might be an option by midseason.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.

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Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.